Despite a diagnosis of Lindsey Vonn's knee injury that sounded ominous even to former ski racing great Picabo Street, Vonn might be recovered sufficiently to defend her Olympic title in downhill next February.
Vonn suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament, a torn medial collateral ligament and a lateral tibial plateau fracture in her right knee.
"I would say she's a super-tough competitor, and it's quite possible that she could come back for next season and the Sochi Olympics just as strong as she ever was," Tom Hackett, an orthopedic surgeon at the Steadman Clinic in Vail, said Tuesday in a phone interview.
Hackett hasn't examined Vonn, but he saw video of the crash and understood the diagnosis announced by the U.S. Ski Team. Street and others were concerned because of the tibial plateau fracture, but Hackett said that is common in ACL injuries.
"I don't see that as being a real game-changer," Hackett said. "It has the potential to be so, but it's unlikely."
Hackett said he did several ACL reconstructions Tuesday, and many that he has performed in his career involved tibial plateau fractures, which can range from bone bruises to broken pieces of bone.
"In short summary, it doesn't necessarily mean it will affect her outcome negatively," Hackett said. "A broken bone heals faster than a ligament anyway."
But Vonn has only 12 months for surgery, rehabilitation and training. That's cutting it close.
"Every month makes a difference," Hackett said. "Every week makes a difference, for that matter. The goal is to try to get the surgery done in a timely manner, and then to maintain as much of her fitness and strength as possible during the rehab period."
Vonn's father, Alan Kildow, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that his daughter could have surgery in Vail at the Steadman Clinic as early as this weekend.